Search This Blog

Monday, January 24, 2011

From Fr. Z -- A Few Suggestions For Singing Chant, Psalms, Etc.

In no particular order.
  • Try to soften your volume a bit at the ends of phrases so you leave the impression that you are not really trying to holler.
  • Soften the high notes a bit, so you don’t hammer them.
  • You can start a phrase a bit softer and then increase your force during the middle part of the phrases, but rein yourself in at the ends.
  • Don’t race and don’t plod.  It is hard to describe the right rate.  Each genre of chant has its own purpose.  Remember that all chants are actual texts.  They are language.  Too slow and you lose the sense of the language.  Too fast and you don’t respect the content.  Keep it moving.  Psalms are quicker than other chants, but don’t race.  There is no prize for the first to finish.
  • Don’t sing in different octaves.  Get everyone on the same pitch… no really.  You can do it.
  • I don’t like mixed chant, that is male and female voices singing together.  I just don’t.  I think there should be a schola for men and a schola for women.  I love chant sung by women!  When it is good, it has an ethereal quality that men can’t accomplish.  Segregation, I say.  Separate but equal.
  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  At the same time, if someone can’t hit the pitch… really can’t… is really tone deaf… be diplomatic, but find them some candle to carry even as you remove the book from their hands. If you know you aren’t singing well… can’t get those notes, perhaps there is another way in which you can help.  There are lots of cool things to do during Vespers and Mass.  Necessary things.
  • When you are singing in a group, for the love of God, LISTEN TO EACH OTHER!  Look UP once in a while to be sure you know what is going on!
  • Be careful when singing psalms not to drift flat.  This is pretty common when people AREN’T LISTENING or paying attention to each other or to the cantor(s), who will usually have a good sense of pitch.  LISTEN.   Going flat is excruciating to people who have to listen.
  • You are not Caruso.   You are not Renee Fleming.  You are not Jussi Bjorling.  Sing with everyone else, for PITY’S SAKE!  You (WE) don’t want to hear YOU.  We want to hear you merged with, singing with, every one else, singing exactly the same thing, at the same time, on the same pitch, with the same force.  If you are not designated to sing a solo bit, then get a grip!  This isn’t about you, anyway.